Question Time with Mentor John – Promoting your product

Question Time with Mentor John – Promoting your product

Question Time with Mentor John – Promoting your product

Customers are the life-blood of any business. Successful companies need to promote and market their products, in order to have a constant flow of loyal customers, who not only provide repeated business, but are happy to refer their friends. Is there a magic formula for promoting your product? Are there different marketing strategies for online or retail stores? How can businesses turn existing customers into brand advocates?? Mentor John explains:

I have started a new business in a relatively crowded industry. My product is superior to my competitors’, though I need customers to be willing to give it a try. What are the best promotional strategies for new players?

Work with a good advertising agency to find the pattern of media consumption of your target market, including the most important social media. You should already have conducted market research to establish the demand for your superior product. Use the market data and your exclusive knowledge of your potential consumers to identify the most likely media for reaching them. Get the merchandising experts to advise you on promotional activity, which may include free sample testing. Estimate the likely uptake online versus in retail outlets. Even if the latter are important at the outset, online purchases will probably become more important sooner rather than later. During the learning curve examine every movement of product sales; each one is significant.

“Your best customers are your existing customers” – well-known management aphorism. It’s true because keeping them used to be relatively easy. But then along come the big bucks from Amazon or Google and your best customers are gone. So how do you place your promotional money? Anyone who tells you that there is a perfect way is kidding you. The media platforms for reaching potential customers are many and varied. Today, with significant media analytics you can pinpoint your existing customers precisely. You have to make more of a guess for your new customers. If your product is a new version of an established consumable – say a new ladies’ handbag – there is plenty of data already available, sometimes at a price. If a new product is barely known to the market, promotion will be a learning curve with a good deal of trial and error in it.

The rise of e-commerce is making it difficult for brick and mortar companies. Do you have advice on how to bring in customers to my retail stores?

Online buying is set to sweep away many retail outlets. Convenience of delivery is the biggest factor in cases where there is someone to receive the goods. There will still be a big cohort of people who want to ‘go shopping’, who like to see and touch goods they may buy, who like the social aspect of being with other people also bent on acquiring a bargain. Many people, too, are away from home a lot and have nobody to answer the door. They still need shops. Sampling and demonstrations are ways to attract people to shops. Special offers only obtainable in retail outlets can work but most online retailers sell at such a discount that further offers are impractical. Having play facilities for children works in a big department store. Frankly, except for very specialised products such as fashion clothes and jewellery, the day of the retail store as we know it is coming to an end. Design your product for online marketing.

Which local businesses do you think are doing it right, in terms of promoting their products? How are they doing it?

The best online catalogue list, promotions and service locally is provided by Lazada. Although not perfect (nobody is), they are mastering the handling of difficult situations better than any other ‘onliners’ I have dealt with. They have recognized that ‘hard cases make good marketing’. They are using AI and robotics intelligently. The marketing truth that consumer is king is not new. Many retail stores seem to forget it. ‘Onliners’ have discovered that if you pay attention to it, it works. Customers want a sensation of security, care and consideration. If they get that they will shop with you.

Attracting customers is just the first hurdle. Do you have suggestions on how to retain customers and turn new customers into loyal ones?

It is a basic human instinct to want to be recognised – more important than cheap prices and smart service. That recognition must make it clear that your supplier knows who you are, how loyal a customer you are, what you like, and how you are best handled. I had once been away from Singapore for nearly two years on business. My passport movements showed this. On my return the lady at Immigration did all the necessary work then handed me back my passport. As she did so she said “Welcome back, it’s nice to have you home”. She understood customers. May you do so, too.